The Lowry theatre is celebrating its tenth anniversary, that’s right only ten years old, yet this theatrical venue (as well as the galleries) seems like it’s been here forever.
 
My pick of Venue of the year for the region this year goes to The Lowry, in 10 short years it has given the region such diverse theatre that if the venue was never built, it would be a scary thought to think where the Manchester theatre scene would be. 

Don’t get me wrong, Manchester’s other venues are magnificent, but each caters to a certain type of audience or producer. The Palace (which would win hands down for most beautiful building) and The Opera House bring major touring musicals to the city, The Royal Exchange revives some of the all time great plays (I’m still in awe of their production of Raisin in the Sun), The Library brings us some of the best plays, The Contact some of the most youthful and diverse work and Studio Salford and Taurus some great fringe theatre, but The Lowry does all of that and more.

My gripe has always been that some of the major touring shows in this country seem to be on a loop year in and year out, not with The Lowry however. Recently Spend Spend Spend, Chess and Enron played the venue in just one month whilst the studio had its own programming going (even when its hit and miss it’s interesting), Our House graced the Venue a few years back which was a delight to see and the venue even co produces its own shows as well.

This week the new season brochure for The Lowry came through and yet again it’s a feast of diversity, I mean what other venue can you go and watch the youthful Vibrant 80’s show Footloose, the deliciously outrageous Avenue Q, as well as the Donmar Warehouse production of King Lear and the National Productions of Hamlet? (oh and did I mention Shawn The Sheep, Ballet, Tango, Sherlock Holmes and Peter Pan?).

Something always seems to catch my eye in their programming. Even the amateur companies such as The Company seem to be operating on a level above the rest. The production of Parade which graced the Quays Theatre at the Lowry was a masterpiece. It’s clear to see that this venue knows what we as theatre goers want to see, my main worry is that the venue will get overloaded with dance (which I like) thanks to its new deal, however I have no doubt that the artistic director of The Lowry (the brilliant Robert Robson) will keep the diversity in programming that has made this venue truly unique, I would go as far as saying it’s one of the best in the country.

The building itself may not have the history of the say The Palace theatre but its design is so unique and eye catching that it’s a joy of a building to be in. The 3 theatres are comfortable and well equipped whilst the bars and cafes are warm and friendly with comfortable surroundings. Unlike many other venues where you go to watch a show you don’t just get the show at The Lowry you get  a great night out where the venue plays as much a part in this as the production does you are going to see.

Yes, The Lowry may only be 10 years old but its contribution to theatre in the region will be felt for decades to come, well done to all who work at this brilliant venue.

So, that’s my pick of Venue of the Year for our region, but what do you think? Which venue have you visited the most this year? And which of these has had the best programming?

This is your chance to have your say, tell me which venue you would pick from this list of nominations:

The Manchester Palace Theatre

The Manchester Opera House

The Royal Exchange

The Library Theatre

The Contact Theatre

The Dancehouse

Bolton Octagon

Oldham Coliseum

Stockport Plaza  

Simply click on this link, and choose and I will reveal your winner next month.

- Craig Hepworth